2022 Reviews · contemporary fiction · new release · suspense · thriller

New Release Book Review: The Good Mother by Rae Cairns

Title: The Good Mother

Author: Rae Cairns

Published: March 30th 2022

Publisher: Harper Collins – AU

Pages: 368

Genres:  Fiction, Thriller, Suspense

RRP: $32.99

Rating: 4 stars

Shortlisted for the 2021 Ned Kelly Award for Best Debut Crime Fiction

She’s protected them from the truth. Can she save them from her past?

Sarah Calhoun is a regular Sydney soccer mum, but she’s keeping terrifying secrets from everyone she loves . . . and her past is about to catch up with her.

When two men from Northern Ireland hunt her down, she’s forced to return to Belfast to testify at a murder trial. Caught in the crossfire of an obsessive policeman driven by a disturbing past, and a brutal IRA executioner, Sarah faces an impossible choice: lie and allow a killer to walk free, or tell the truth and place her children in the line of fire.

With her family and innocent people at risk, Sarah must find the courage to fight for the truth. But righting the wrongs of the past just might cost her everything . . .

This fast-paced, explosive thriller will keep you on the edge of your seat to its gripping finale.


Shortlisted for the Ned Kelly Award best debut crime release, The Good Mother by Rae Cairns is a strong suspense and tension filled tale from a new writer on the publishing scene. With themes of protection, the past, danger, secrets, risk, murder, justice and motherhood at the heart of this story, Rae Cairns has penned a fantastic debut novel.

The Good Mother closely follows an ordinary Sydney based mother who is trying put her horrific past in Ireland behind her. Sarah Calhoun is determined not to let the past catch up with her as she works to protect her family. But when some dangerous men from Northern Ireland come and find her, Sarah knows that she has no choice but to testify in a trial in Belfast. In Belfast Sarah encounters great danger, from both the authorities and the IRA. With questions of truth, lies and the past all coming into play, Sarah must battle to save her family from harm. In exposing the truth Sarah is taking an almost impossible risk, will she rectify the wrong deeds of the past?

2022 has been a fruitful year so far for debut authors in the contemporary fiction and crime genre. I have been introduced to some very talented and original new voices in the crime suspense genre this year and Rae Cairns is one great example of a fantastic debut author. Urgent, compelling and gripping, The Good Mother proved to be an excellent read from start to finish.

What I valued the most about The Good Mother was the deeply situational insight into life in Northern Ireland and how it has impacted people today. I have to admit to possessing very little knowledge about The Troubles conflict which lasted for over three decades. This tumultuous era was integrated well within the context of The Good Mother. The narrative was engrossing but also quite educative, making me aware of a part of the world and a struggle that had a strong bearing on so many. The heartache, pain and strain of this time is expressed well by Cairns. I also appreciated how the past and present managed to collide in the storyline, culminating in a tough line of truth and lies via the lead character’s journey.

Along with a rich sense of place and time, characterisation is a strong point in The Good Mother. Sarah is a realistic and credible protagonist. I was able to connect with this lead from the start to the close of The Good Mother. With Sarah’s feelings, movements and decisions fully exposed, Cairns has crafted a lead that we sympathise with greatly. I completely understood Sarah’s motivations and sense of protection for her family, but I knew she had to expose the truth, which is a dangerous option in this story. The crime, suspense and mystery elements are extended well in this novel, with the atmosphere remaining tight for the duration. With a fast pace and plenty of twisty moments, The Good Mother travels swiftly to a thrilling end game.

If you are tempted to pick up The Good Mother, don’t forget to check out the enlightening author’s note and make sure you visit Rae Cairns on the web, she has some fantastic links on The Troubles in Northern Ireland. A fascinating debut!

The Good Mother by Rae Cairns was published on 30th March 2022 by HarperCollins – AU. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of The Good Mother, Rae Cairns, visit here.

*Thanks extended to HarperCollins Books Australia for providing a free copy of this book for review purposes.

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